I'll be honest: I've never read Jules Verne's literary classic Around the World in 80 Days. Nor have I seen any of the film adaptations—not the Academy Award-winning 1956 version, and certainly not the 2004 misfire starring Jackie Chan. I mention this upfront in the hopes of conveying how utterly unnecessary it is to have any affection for the original story in order for 80 Days ($5) to capture your attention.
Just released this week on Android, 80 Days builds a compelling work of interactive fiction around the novel's premise, letting you guide and shape the narrative with each and every beat. Whether it's plotting the route ahead, choosing from dialogue options that shape your character, or making decisions that can speed up or alternately halt your voyage, the journey really becomes your own. And while not quite as thrilling as actually seeing the whole world over, it is surprisingly enchanting.
Days go by
Inkle's interactive adaptation has the same starting point as the book: Phileas Fogg has declared that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days, circa 1872. As his new valet, Passepartout, you must accompany him and try to ensure not only his success in this daunting endeavor, but also his safety, health, and the state of his bank account. In essence, you're the one weighing all of the tough calls while Fogg is merely along for the ride. Lucky him.
Resource juggling is a key focus, but there are so many elements to consider—and the balance of needs feels realistic. For example, the goal is to travel as swiftly as possible, but you may not be able to spare the extra cash to bribe a ship's captain to leave a day earlier than scheduled. And some forms of transportation are more comfortable than others, but book a lot of rough trips and Fogg's demeanor will suffer. As such, it may be worthwhile to stay in at night to attend to your master. However, doing so might force you to miss social interactions that can lead to unexpected new routes opening up, or obtaining key items that you can sell later.
It quickly becomes clear that this isn't Fogg's story, responsible as he may be for beginning and funding the trip. It's yours, as Passepartout, and you start as something of a blank slate. Each interaction and dialogue exchange is guided by your frequent responses, which determine what kind of person he is, and even what his backstory is like. Are you daring and adventurous, or merely meek and focused solely on a safe voyage? You can be practical or risky, or even somewhere in between, but the results are almost always engaging.
If the map ahead seems barren, try exploring your current city or chatting while in transit—a little morsel of conversation or a surprise encounter can open up new routes ahead. Sometimes it's as simple as buying a schedule at the market.
Intelligently managing both time and money is essential. The bank is only open on weekdays, and wires from London take days. But some of the faster forms of travel are expensive, and you may want to pay extra to bump up the departure time. It's a constant back-and-forth.
Each trip takes a little bit out of Fogg, although some of the items you carry in your suitcase can diminish the negative effects. Even more helpful: tending to his needs whenever the prompt appears, which slightly improves his state.
When striking up a conversation while on a vessel, be sure to prioritize whichever topics you think will yield useful information. You'll typically get a question or two out before the captain or crewmember hastily departs.
Buying items cheaply in one area and selling them at a premium elsewhere can help build up your funds. However, each vehicle you board has a limit on suitcases, and some bar luggage altogether—another factor to consider when picking a route.
Why it's worth your money
A game like 80 Days rises or falls based on the quality of its narrative, and it's a soaring success here. Rich dialogue pairs well with intriguing teases at Passepartout's past, as well as what's ahead for this steampunk-tinged version of the late 19th century. It's gripping and interesting, but you don't need to memorize little details or even pay incredibly close attention—this is perfect commute fodder. Whether you play for 10 minutes or an hour at a time, you'll feel like you're making progress and taking in a captivating quest.
For an experience primarily comprised of text and menus, it's also impeccably crafted, with great artwork and music plus fleeting glimpses at other players' routes on the map screen. And 80 Days is impressively replayable. With 150 cities to explore and nearly every paragraph of writing offering an opportunity to spin the story in a new direction, you could play a dozen or more times (at a few hours per trip) and still have fresh experiences.
And that doesn't even take into account the core objective: getting back to London within 80 days, which seems a monumental feat considering the various roadblocks you'll face along the way. My first trip took 95 days, and I immediately dove back in, applying important lessons from the first jaunt and trying new routes and dialogue options to see how the tale unfolded. 80 Days may draw from classic source material, but it creates a distinct and engrossing experience of its own.
This story, "80 Days leads you on a round-the-world adventure during your commute" was originally published by Greenbot.